By Buddy Macuha, Group Fitness Manager at Equinox & fitness guru
People usually start an exercise program to get physically stronger or to look better. For many, fitness evolves over time to something more: a social activity, a way to de-stress, and even a vital part of daily routine. What begins as a weekly trip to the gym becomes a personal sanctuary to reset and look at life a little differently.
It's not fitness. It's life.
I began teaching because I wanted to share my love of movement with others. Over the last 10+ years, I’ve taught everything from step to indoor cycling to yoga. I continue to do it because I see the positive benefit I have in people’s lives through fitness.
Now I serve as Group Fitness Manager and teach classes at Equinox, the premier fitness brand with locations across the world including NYC, SF, LA, and London. Equinox’s motto is It’s Not Fitness. It’s Life. And that couldn’t be more true. Fitness is about more than just a gym -- it’s an approach that improves all aspects of our lives.
When students come to class on a regular basis, they learn to make themselves a priority. With each additional mile ran, hill climbed, or weight lifted, things that seemed impossible become surmountable. Without even knowing it, their minds grow stronger with their bodies.
The power of the mind
Many people focus on improving physical strength at the gym, but surprisingly, it's not what keeps most people from achieving their fitness goals. Sure, you need to build up a certain amount of muscle or flexibility to do yoga poses, but the key to an effective practice is quieting the mind. The same is true about spin, cardio, etc. -- they all require a mental strength in order to push beyond our comfort zone and where we think our limits are. The six inches between our ears are often the hardest to conquer. That's why so much of sports psychology focuses on understanding and improving mental strength. In addition to raw skill, it's what separates the most elite athletes from others in their field.
The mind + body
We are only starting to understand the reverse relationship: the impact the body has on the mind. I recently attended the Further Future Conference in Las Vegas which celebrated music, innovation, and wellness. Speakers focused a lot on brain health. The consensus was that keeping the mind actively challenged will help our cognitive skills stay sharp. Movement enables us to capture that connection on a deeper level. The brain and body work together to perform a desired outcome. As they connect, new ways of thinking are brought forward, and the brain learns how to come up with better solutions. Over time, we are able to handle different challenges in our life more easily. Like a muscle, the brain must be worked and exercised, and once it gets stronger, so do we.
At the conference, I also had the opportunity to teach Equinox’s new signature program, Headstrong, which works on this very concept. This class combines movements that we learned as infants and blends challenging mind/body reaction drills. This helps to stimulate the brain’s capacity to think and problem solve. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend taking a class at one of our locations in the Bay Area.
Using our bodies in smart ways helps sharpen our minds. In turn, this mental strength allows us to push our bodies even further, and we're able to go beyond what we thought was initially possible.
Don't forget mental health
It’s funny to think that not so long ago, gyms were places for extreme athletes and bodybuilders. As people have embraced physical fitness, it’s evolved into an important part of everyday life.
With yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, we’re starting to think about mental health more holistically as well. I encourage all of my students to take time out of their day for themselves, as they would their bodies -- to be grateful, connect, and challenge how they think about the world. It’s important to make our inner selves as strong as our outer selves.
Sometimes we need some help. Think about attempting Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) without a yogi’s support or trying to lift heavy weight without a spotter. At its core, reflect does for the soul what Equinox does for the body: it strengthens something we use on a daily basis and provides guidance when we need. And it represents a commitment to your long-term health. Our team of therapists are the yogis, personal trainers, gym buddies, and spotters to help you become the strongest person possible.
So next time you have a stressful day at work, remember to take time for yourself. Stay physically active to keep your body and mind strong and centered. Just make sure you pay attention to your mental health as well.
If you’re interested in getting some guidance with those tough mental yoga poses (like career transitions, relationships, etc.), click on the “Get started” link above and let reflect help you find someone to talk to. Think of it like having a gym for your soul. After all...
It’s Not Therapy. It’s Life.